If You Ask The Question In A Certain Way, 61% Of Americans Say They Support An Internet Kill Switch

from the but-you-gotta-read-the-question dept

Slashdot points us to a story claiming that 61% of Americans "support an internet kill switch." Of course, this is a topic that's been hotly debated lately, with some attempt at passing laws that aren't really a "kill switch," but merely a coordinated way to reroute internet traffic in the event of some sort of "attack" (broadly defined) from a particular country.

That 61% number certainly sounded pretty high, and I was doubly skeptical when I read that the study came from Unisys, a security company who clearly stands to profit from greater "worries" about the still apparently bogus concept of "cyberwar." And, of course, people always point out that you can get a survey to say pretty much anything you want, depending on how you ask the question. So I went digging to see if I could find exactly what question Unisys (and its partner Lieberman Research Group) used to get this result. It took a bit of searching, but here's the question:
If there were clear evidence of a malicious cyber-security attack by a foreign government against our military, civilian government, electrical grid, financial systems, or other critical infrastructure, should the President have the authority to take control of or effectively shut down portions of the Internet to mitigate a crisis?
First of all, that's a big, big "if" right at the beginning there. Second, all of this assumes that an attack on the military, the government, the electrical grid, the financial system or other "critical infrastructure" could actually come via the internet. This isn't a reason to support an internet kill switch. It's a reason to get people to ask more reasonable questions, rather than broadbased scary questions, without highlighting the corresponding concerns, civil liberties issues and other worries. If you make any question "scary" enough, you can get people to agree with you, but that hardly means that people would actually want such a kill switch if they understood (a) the likelihood of such an attack, (b) what such a "kill switch" would actually mean, and (c) what alternatives there are.

In other words, this is pure propaganda from Unisys, rather than any bit of meaningful data.


Reader Comments (rss)

(Flattened / Threaded)

  1.  
    icon
    Dark Helmet (profile), Oct 28th, 2010 @ 1:51pm

    Sigh...

    Question: If the fate of the entire human race was in jeapordy and the only way to save it was to reanimate the bodies of Jeffrey Dahmer, Adolph Hitler, and Charlie Chaplin, and then have them peform an around the world orgy on three thousand defenseless baby kittens dressed up as nuns, and to then have those kittens ground up into hot dog (get it?) meat and served intravenously to a panda bear, would you want that to happen?

    Result: 94% of people think feeding molested kittens to black and white quadripeds is okey-schmokels....

    Yay! Surveys are fun!

     

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  2.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Oct 28th, 2010 @ 1:59pm

    86% of people like Live Free or Die Hard
    (http://www.rottentomatoes.com/m/live_free_or_die_hard/)

    I'd guess 100% of people in Unisys PR like it.

     

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  3.  
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    scarr (profile), Oct 28th, 2010 @ 2:00pm

    Re:

    2% of the time, I'm not properly logged into TechDirt. :P

     

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  4.  
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    :Lobo Santo (profile), Oct 28th, 2010 @ 2:03pm

    Re: Sigh...

    Yep. "Lies, damn lies, and statistics" to quote Samuel Clement.

     

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  5.  
    identicon
    Gwiz, Oct 28th, 2010 @ 2:25pm

    A recent survey concluded that 3 out of 4 people make up 75% of the population.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  6.  
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    foobar (profile), Oct 28th, 2010 @ 2:30pm

    Correction

    61% of the tiny minority of Americans who still have a land line and do not immediately hang up when they hear "survey."

     

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  7.  
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    Jay (profile), Oct 28th, 2010 @ 2:31pm

    "If we were about to plunge into chaos and terrorists were about to use our own nuclear missiles to blow us to smithereens and the only to stop complete destruction of civilisation as we know it was to turn off part of the internet would you support it?"

    39% of people said no... They can take my life and my liberty but they can never take my tweets!!

     

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  8.  
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    TPBer (profile), Oct 28th, 2010 @ 2:34pm

    Re: Re: Sigh...

    It's not a lie, it's a mere characterization of the truth"

     

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  9.  
    identicon
    Alatar, Oct 28th, 2010 @ 2:45pm

    let them do it, and let us do it too

    Question : if hundreds of millions of poor people were about to die from grave diseases, and some corporation was doing everything to destroy anyone who tries to bring them affordable medication, would you agree to do something to prevent that?"

    Yeah, 100% of the American are supporting the abolition of the patent system!

     

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  10.  
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    ECA (profile), Oct 28th, 2010 @ 2:46pm

    That is a LOADED question..

    Lets understand something FIRST..

    1. international internet servers farms? How many? 8-12-16? locations?
    2. A SECURE system. WHO in hell would give access to a computer Via internet, for a SECURE SYSTEM. an IDIOT.
    3. What part of the question REALLY deals with the problem? Access to gov computers??(see #2)..
    Corps? WHO cares. remember that the electric corps arnt government.
    Infrastructure? roads?? I dont think so..
    WHAT infrastructure has access to the NET?

    NOW, critical attack?
    wow, that sounds like SPAM to me.

     

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  11.  
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    ChurchHatesTucker (profile), Oct 28th, 2010 @ 2:46pm

    61?

    They loaded the question like that and still got only 61% to agree?

    Makes me proud to be an American.

     

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  12.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Oct 28th, 2010 @ 2:48pm

    Oh yeah totally plausible

    Statistics don't prove anything you didn't already know except that everybody in the universe has 2.4 legs and owns a hyena - Douglas Adams
    8 out of 10 owners who expressed a preference said their cats preferred it - Wiskers cat food ad
    98.63% of statistics are made up on the spot

    Don't you love surveys done by people with a vested interest in the answer? And yet so many people buy into the answers (because they want to?).

    Actually I remember China tried something like this - re-routing a significant part of the internet down a specific path. They totally snarked it up.. and I mean totally. Created a large routing loop I think. As I understand the structure of the interent, I'm not sure this is even possible to acheive correctly. Still I'm sure that won't get in the way of a good bit of fear mongering and consultancy fees.....

     

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  13.  
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    xs (profile), Oct 28th, 2010 @ 2:51pm

    Re:

    The original survey at least sounds like a reasonable scenario, yours is just ridiculous.

     

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  14.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Oct 28th, 2010 @ 3:09pm

    Oh, and just for the hell of it...

    ... exactly where does the President of the United States get "the authority to take control of or effectively shut down portions of the Internet"?

    Large potions of "the internet" are outside of the U.S., connections to bits of it in the U.S. are probably in places that are effectively foreign soil - wouldn't messing with either of those things constitute causus belli for the country(ies) so "threatened"?

    Seriously? Nukes aren't bad enough? You want to give a position sometimes occupied by a buffoon or someone bought and paid for the ability to p*ss THAT much of the world off at once? Does anyone in the U.S> imagine the rest of the world would actually buy into this?

     

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  15.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Oct 28th, 2010 @ 3:25pm

    lol obviously some people have no idea how the internet works, nor how governments/power companies/other important organisations should really have their own security measures.

     

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  16.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Oct 28th, 2010 @ 3:43pm

    "If there were clear evidence" FSM! Didn't we learn anything from Iraq?!

     

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  17.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Oct 28th, 2010 @ 3:49pm

    Re:

    and 99 percent of statistics are made up on the spot.

     

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  18.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Oct 28th, 2010 @ 4:07pm

    If Mike says its bad then 91% of td readers will automatically agree.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  19.  
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    BearGriz72 (profile), Oct 28th, 2010 @ 4:15pm

    Re: Re:

    "The original survey at least sounds like a reasonable scenario"???

    If there was "Clear evidence of a malicious cyber-security attack (Using the Internet) by a foreign government against our military, civilian government, electrical grid, financial systems, or other critical infrastructure. Do you honestly think we would have enough capability left to USE the Mythical Internet Kill Switch?

    I think you've got to ask yourself one question: Do You feel lucky? Well, do you?

     

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  20.  
    identicon
    darryl, Oct 28th, 2010 @ 4:16pm

    In the real world

    Yes, here what Mike says, everyone (almost) just blindly follows..

    Mike, why dont you frame the question a new for us ?

    How would you spin that question to get the result that you want. .

    And what is your problem with IF.

    IF it did happen would you agree to this, yes or no.

    How would you ask the question ?

    It would be interesting to see how you would spin such a question to get your desired results ?

    So go ahead..... but otherwise, what are you trying to say, that there is no possibility, and never will be any possibility of a cyber type attack on US infrastructure ?

    Im so glad you are not responsible for my computer or personal security.. You dont have a clue do you !!!..

    That is more scare than the US Govmnt seeing a problem and reacting to it, you cant even see a problem !!.. OMFG.

    Are you sure your on the same planet or internet that everyone else is on ?

    In the real world....

     

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  21.  
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    BearGriz72 (profile), Oct 28th, 2010 @ 4:21pm

    Re:

    And 24% of TD readers will automatically disagree.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  22.  
    identicon
    darryl, Oct 28th, 2010 @ 4:25pm

    PORTIONS --- know what that means Mike ?? anyone ??

    If there were clear evidence of a malicious cyber-security attack by a foreign government against our military, civilian government, electrical grid, financial systems, or other critical infrastructure, should the President have the authority to take control of or effectively shut down portions of the Internet to mitigate a crisis?


    Do you know what "PORTIONS" means ??? Mike..

    THat word makes your headline a lie, no one said they agreed to an internet KILL SWITCH.. that is pure FUD..

    read the question again Mike, and pay more attention next time..

    2/10

     

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  23.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Oct 28th, 2010 @ 4:26pm

    Re: In the real world

    Translation:
    Blah blah blah [random lie vaguely based on a really tenuous interpretation of 1/4 of a sentence of the article] blah blah blah blah rant grr argh!

    Hmm sorry could you repeat that? Wasn't really listening.

     

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  24.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Oct 28th, 2010 @ 4:30pm

    Re: Sigh...

    If you knew that an Internet kill switch will save lives, would you be in favor of it?

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  25.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Oct 28th, 2010 @ 4:33pm

    This one's very cute and demonstrates once again of being careful what you ask for.

    The supposition that we would "know" the source of an internet attack has been demonstrated over and over again to be very difficult with grey net, spoofing, bot nets, and willing countries to assist in aiding such an endeavor who view us as a threat but wish to avoid an all out declaration of war.

    I have knowledge of industry practices that allow remote control/monitoring of facilities sometimes hundreds of miles from the facility location where physical processes may take place. These are usually engineering departments where it is necessary to monitor present conditions in near or at real time. Most of them also have provisions for remote shut downs or even changing the parameters of safety devices. It is done through special programs often requiring dongles on the computer to activate access and are strictly controlled as to possession of one.

    The majority of the time it is handled through the internet on as near secure channels as possible.

    Trust me when I say, I know they exist, I've used them.

    What this appears to me to be is the initial attempt to seal the borders of the net under something similar to China's great firewall by unnamed parties in the government. To redo the internet into a clone of the great firewall would mean a total redesign of the internet and all pathways into the country. The US was never designed to be the same. The net grew haphazardly here and the design was not to route the "pipes" if you will into narrow necks to be monitored easily but rather it was designed to reroute to prevent failures.

    This is FUD, pure and simple, trying to influence and gain support to do something no one in their right mind would really wish, if you wish choice and freedom. The saber rattlers will be sure to disagree.

     

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  26.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Oct 28th, 2010 @ 4:35pm

    Re: Re:

    But fanboy backlash stops them from commenting about their disagreement.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  27.  
    icon
    ECA (profile), Oct 28th, 2010 @ 4:35pm

    Re: Re: Re:

    Lets see..

    Internet FAST..
    Finding out you have a BUG, SLOW..
    Which would happen quicker? You KNOWING something is happening, BEFORE or after it started?

    What? a DDOS attack on the 12-16 MAIN international relay servers? You wouldnt have a chance.

    Any idiot Stupid enough to put Critical system(s) on the net, SHOULD be hacked.

     

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  28.  
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    ECA (profile), Oct 28th, 2010 @ 4:37pm

    Re: Re: Sigh...

    And if you install critical systems with access to the net? you would be an idiot.

     

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  29.  
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    Jay (profile), Oct 28th, 2010 @ 4:42pm

    Re: PORTIONS --- know what that means Mike ?? anyone ??

    Ahh... Daryl hate to be the one to point this out but Mike was quoting the article he links to, thats the whole point of this piece that the survey doesn't necessarily support the headline...

    Maybe you might like to read the article again, and, well you know the rest of it...

     

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  30.  
    identicon
    darryl's Mum, Oct 28th, 2010 @ 6:21pm

    Re: PORTIONS --- know what that means Mike ?? anyone ??

    Oh dear, he's at it again.

     

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  31.  
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    ChurchHatesTucker (profile), Oct 28th, 2010 @ 6:30pm

    Re: Re: Re:

    If only...

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  32.  
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    abc gum, Oct 28th, 2010 @ 6:31pm

    If there were clear evidence of outrageously bad decisions by government, military, corporations, utilities, financial behemoths, or other fools, which authorized the connection of critical systems to the public internet ... should the President have the authority to take them out behind the shed and effectively open a can of whoopass?

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  33.  
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    BearGriz72 (profile), Oct 28th, 2010 @ 7:47pm

    Re: Re: Re:

    "But fanboy backlash stops them from commenting about their disagreement."

    All 115% of them??? ;-D

     

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  34.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Oct 28th, 2010 @ 8:35pm

    Re: Re: Re: Re:

    No, the 9% that disagree are the ones that comment. It was your BSA style math that pushed it over 100% -assume that insiders double count themselves.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  35.  
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    ECA (profile), Oct 28th, 2010 @ 9:42pm

    Re:

    I can understand this..
    I can understand the protections NEEDED, and hopefully USED..and they arnt hard to put into place.
    A dongle to hold a 512 character passcode using upper/lower case, Numbers and special characters, would take years to crack..
    Code for the router
    Code for the relay server
    Code for the machine..
    Then an Upload to your system to verify, and BACKTRACK..and if it dont run or is blocked from returning ITS SYSTEM LOCATION, a trip wire is sent.

    Then have an OFFSITE, warning/trace system.
    The laptop/desktop, ANY time it connects to the net, sends a PING/email.."here I am"

     

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  36.  
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    ECA (profile), Oct 28th, 2010 @ 9:44pm

    Re:

    IF a corp/company/gov computer were Left to the randomness of the internet..you might as well give a 12 year old a 9mm pistol and tell them to have fun.

    I would look at the the IDIOT that set it up.

     

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  37.  
    identicon
    Evostick, Oct 29th, 2010 @ 1:52am

    Yes Minister

    Humphrey: You know what happens: nice young lady comes up to you. Obviously you want to create a good impression, you don't want to look a fool, do you? So she starts asking you some questions: " Mr. Woolley, are you worried about the number of young people without jobs?"
    Bernard: Yes
    Humphrey: "Are you worried about the rise in crime among teenagers?"
    Bernard: Yes
    Humphrey: "Do you think there is a lack of discipline in our Comprehensive schools?"
    Bernard: Yes
    Humphrey: "Do you think young people welcome some authority and leadership in their lives?"
    Bernard: Yes
    Humphrey: "Do you think they respond to a challenge?"
    Bernard: Yes
    Humphrey: "Would you be in favour of reintroducing National Service?"
    Bernard: Oh...well, I suppose I might be.
    Humphrey: "Yes or no?"
    Bernard: Yes
    Humphrey: Of course you would, Bernard. After all you told her you can't say no to that. So they don't mention the first five questions and they publish the last one.
    Bernard: Is that really what they do?
    Humphrey: Well, not the reputable ones no, but there aren't many of those. So alternatively the young lady can get the opposite result.
    Bernard: How?
    Humphrey: "Mr. Woolley, are you worried about the danger of war?"
    Bernard: Yes
    Humphrey: "Are you worried about the growth of armaments?"
    Bernard: Yes
    Humphrey: "Do you think there is a danger in giving young people guns and teaching them how to kill?"
    Bernard: Yes
    Humphrey: "Do you think it is wrong to force people to take up arms against their will?"
    Bernard: Yes
    Humphrey: "Would you oppose the reintroduction of National Service?"
    Bernard: Yes
    Humphrey: There you are, you see Bernard. The perfect balanced sample.

     

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  38.  
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    BearGriz72 (profile), Oct 30th, 2010 @ 9:58am

    Re: Re: Re: Re: Re:

    Take a Joke Much?

     

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  39.  
    identicon
    tax cpe, Oct 31st, 2010 @ 2:40am

    so much power!

    We really wouldn't want to give that much power to a single person or organization, would we? Who's going to determine that the "kill switch" needs to be switched off?

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]


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